President Obama revealed his goals for a new National Climate Action Plan today, and said he is committed to keeping America “a global leader in the fight against climate change.” Sidestepping Congress, the president issued his executive action plan, which is already drawing criticism from the industry and those in coal-producing states. His plans include steps to limit pollution from power plants and increase renewable energy production.

During his call to action, the president asserted, “I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.”

In his second State of the Union address, President Obama urged Congress to pursue a “bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change,” and promised, “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.” Today the president said that he is still willing to work with anyone who wants to make that happen.

In his speech today, the president presented facts about carbon emissions, our warming planet, rising sea levels, and superstorms.

“Potential impacts go beyond rising sea levels. Here at home, 2012 was the warmest year in history,” the president said. “Just last week, a heat wave in Alaska shot temperatures into the 90s, and we know that the costs of these events can be measured in lost lives, lost livelihoods, lost homes, lost businesses, hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency services and disaster relief…”

“Americans across the country are already paying the price of inaction, in insurance premiums, state and local taxes, and the costs of rebuilding and disaster relief. So the question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgment of science… has put all that to rest… The question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late.”

Obama directed the EPA to impose the first-ever standards on carbon dioxide emissions from both new and existing power plants. The decision should come as a welcome relief to environmentalists, who have been urging the president to take action on regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

His action plan includes cutting carbon pollution by curbing existing pollution from power plants, changing the way we use energy, using cleaner, renewable energy, and wasting less energy. Obama said he realizes his initiative will draw criticism from industry members and their “friends in Congress.” Whenever the US has chosen to act on climate issues in the past, opponents said bills would increase and businesses and jobs would suffer. But they were wrong, the president said.

“The problem with all these tired excuses for inaction is that it suggests a fundamental lack of faith in American business and American ingenuity,” Obama said, to rounds of applause.

The president’s remarks on the Keystone XL pipeline suggested that, while the State Department is responsible for evaluating the proposed project, the pipeline should only be built if it is in the United States’ best interest. “Our national interest will only be served if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,” he said. Many environmentalists are likely to be dissatisfied with his response to this issue, as most have been calling on the president to veto the pipeline.

Obama then promised that his administration would “redouble” their efforts to work with other countries to reach “a new global agreement to reduce carbon pollution through concrete action.” “If we can come together and get this right, we can define a sustainable future for your generation,” he concluded.

“The actions I’ve announced today should send a strong signal to the world that America intends to take bold action to reduce carbon pollution. We will continue to lead by the power of our example, because that’s what the United States of America has always done.”

Alisha is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire. 

Obama - Climate Change